Raids in Berggasse
On March 15, 1938, three days after the German troops had entered Austria, an SA platoon searches Berggasse 19. Two days later, Princess Marie Bonaparte arrives from Paris in order to offer organizational, diplomatic, and financial support to the Freud family. On March 22, the Gestapo raids Freud’s rooms. Anna Freud is arrested and taken to the Gestapo headquarters at the former Hotel Metropol at Morzinplatz; she only returns in the evening after hours of questioning.
The «Freud case» is arbitrated at the highest diplomatic level. William C. Bullitt—American ambassador to France, Sigmund Freud’s former patient and co-author, and a personal friend of President Roosevelt—sends the American consul general John Wiley to Vienna. His task is to set into motion Freud’s safe departure. By the end of March 1938, thanks to the efforts of British psychoanalyst Ernest Jones, the Freud family’s permission to enter England is assured.
Waiting to Leave
In order to be allowed to leave the country, formal obstacles need to be overcome like the payment of the Reich Flight Tax. Initially introduced in 1931 in order to avoid capital flight, this tax is now used by the National Socialists as an instrument of expropriation. To take his mind off the wait for the exit visa, Freud works on his first joint publication with Anna: they are translating Marie Bonaparte’s book about her dog Topsy. Fascinated by the lack of ambivalence in dogs, Freud has himself been the owner of Chow-Chow since 1928 and continues to be one until the end of his life. He also spends his time organizing his collections of antiques and books. Out of a total of nearly 4,500 volumes, he discards a third. In April, a new book is added to his collection: in his dedication the French author Pierre Jean Jouve calls Freud a «just man in dark times.»
Freud himself presents a final dedicated copy to his lawyer Alfred Indra, a decisive opponent of the Nazi regime: «in gratitude & friendship.»
Everyday Life in Exile
On June 4, 1938, Sigmund, Martha, and Anna Freud are able to leave Vienna on the Orient Express. After a short stopover in Paris, they reach London on June 6. At first, they are put up in Elsworthy Road in the wealthy residential quarter of Hampstead, where Freud has the great honor of being visited by three representatives of the Royal Society. In September 1938, he undergoes surgery to remove a tumor: his Viennese doctor Hans Pichler flies in especially for the occasion—Freud’s last operation. After returning from the London Clinic, he moves into the house at 20 Maresfield Gardens, which has been converted by his son Ernst and which the family calls the «London Berggasse.»
Here, he finishes his work Moses and Monotheism, while his final work— An Outline of Psychoanalysis —remains unfinished. He receives guests including Salvador Dali, Arnold Zweig, and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, as well as four regular analysands and Dorothy Burlingham for her training analysis.
Farewell to Sigmund Freud
«Closure of practice»: this is Freud’s diary entry on August 1, 1939, after an attack of cardiac asthma. His appetite vanishes, the pain increases. In September, his health goes into rapid decline. Freud moves into his study for his sickbed, with a view of the roses in the garden. After a morphine injection, Freud goes into a coma and dies in the early hours of September 23, 1939. «Till the end, in the few hours or, in the end, minutes of the day when he was not overpowered by sleep or pain, he was completely himself,» his daughter-in- law Lucie writes in a letter of Freud’s last days.
His cremation and interment take place on September 26 at Golders Green Crematorium. Ernest Jones reads a eulogy in English, then Stefan Zweig speaks: «Each of us would think, judge, feel, more narrowly, less freely, less justly without his thinking ahead of us, without this powerful inward stimulus he has given us» (Stefan Zweig, 1939).
A Book with Five Pages
«We are like a book. Alexander and I are the covers; Anna, Rosa, Mitzi, Pauli, Dolfi are the five pages,» 11-year-old Freud says about his siblings. All of the daughters receive an education, which is unusual for the time: Anna is one of the first Jewish teachers in Vienna; Rosa is the director of a private school for fine embroidery; Marie («Mitzi») learns bookkeeping; Pauline («Pauli») is also a fine embroidress; and Adolfine («Dolfi») cares for their parents.
Alexander earns the title of «imperial councillor« for his work as a railroad expert and editor of the journal Allgemeiner Tarif-Anzeiger. For many years, he is a beloved travel companion to his older brother. The letters that the siblings exchange reveal both intimate as well as distant relationships: Freud describes Rosa, who lives on Berggasse 19 until 1908, and Dolfi as his favorite sisters. On the other hand, when Anna moved to the United States and Marie to Berlin, Freud feels relieved. Pauline is rarely mentioned, and when she is, Freud refers to her as the aunt of his children.
The Murder of the Sisters
Robbed of their fundamental rights, exposed to repressive financial measures and bodily harm, thousands of Jewish Austrians try to leave the country in the late 1930s. Sigmund and Alexander Freud are able to emigrate with their families; their elderly sisters Adolfine, Marie, Pauline, and Rosa stay behind in Vienna. The funds they receive from their family for their financial security are quickly exhausted by an increasing list of taxes put into place by the Nazis.
Displaced from their apartments, they are ordered to move to one of the many group apartments in which Jews are forced to live in highly confined spaces, and eventually to a Jewish retirement home. In the summer of 1942, the sisters are deported to Theresienstadt where Adolfine dies on September 29th. Marie, Pauline, and Rosa are murdered only a few hours into their arrival at Treblinka, where they are deported to on the 23rd and 29th of September. The rest of the family only finds out about their fate through a letter sent by the Red Cross in 1946.